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Sudbury council OK’s $65M plan to move library, art gallery into city hall

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The long-discussed plan to build a new art gallery and library in Greater Sudbury is moving forward after city council approved a $65 million plan at a special meeting Tuesday.

The Cultural Hub at Tom Davies Square project, as it is known, also includes the Sudbury Multicultural and Folk Arts Association.

“The project will provide residents with a variety of services in one convenient centralized location, and supports the city’s commitment to accessibility, environmental sustainability, multiculturalism, social inclusion and culture,” the city said in a news release after the meeting.

This is the third proposed site for the project, after the original plan to build on a vacated Sudbury Arena was dropped in favour of a site in the Shaughnessy Street area of downtown.

But costs ballooned to almost $100 million due to global inflation and the decision was made to move into city hall to save money. City staff reduced costs to $68.8 million, trimming it further to $65 million Tuesday evening.

“This includes up to $37 million in municipal funding, with funds provided by debt already secured for this project,” the city said.

If funding applications to upper levels of government are rejected, city council approved more municipal funds up to a limit of $64.5 million.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Greater Sudbury secured $200 million in a low-interest debenture to fund its so-called big projects, which included a new arena, as well as the library art gallery.

The arena project was also halted because of soaring costs and councillors are still trying to decide what to do to address the decades-old downtown arena.

As for the cultural hub, a relocation project will be undertaken to move some municipal services from 200 Brady St. to the provincial tower at 199 Larch St. to make room for the project.

“This is made possible by post-pandemic changes to the province’s business operations, which has made a significant amount of space available within 199 Larch St.,” the city said.

The decision to move into city hall was a way to maintain the scope of the project while still reducing costs. By moving into Tom Davies, renovations will be required rather than a new build.

Longer term, the city was already paying for lights, heat and other maintenance costs for Tom Davies. Moving the art gallery and library into the same space allows for more savings.

The hub is also seen as a way to revitalize downtown by “establishing an accessible, inviting, contemporary, people-oriented space for connecting residents to each other as well as to art, information and technology,” the city said.

“It also contributes to municipal economic development and tourism goals.”

The next step is to issue a request for proposal (RFP), which should be awarded in early 2024. The staff report said the goal is to open in late 2026.

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